Today in History: 17-year-old Boris Becker Becomes Youngest Ever Winner of Wimbledon Men’s Title

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On 7 July 1985, Boris Becker became the youngest man to triumph at Wimbledon, defeating Kevin Curren in the final (6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4). Curren was ranked 9th in the world player playing for USA.

Boris Becker was 17 years old when he won the 1985 Championships, becoming the youngest ever winner of the gentlemen’s singles title.

“What I remember most from winning Wimbledon at 17 was that people suddenly looked at me differently – they thought I was from planet Mars. They thought I had done something I wasn’t supposed to do, something that shouldn’t have been possible. But I did it. And then I did it at 18, just to make the point.”

Becker would returb to defend his Wimbledon crown in 1986. At 18 he defeating world No 1 Ivan Lendl in the final (6-4, 6-3, 7-5).

Throughout his career, he would win three Wimbledon titles, three French Open, two Australian Opens and one US Open crown. He would spend 12 weeks as the world’s best player in 1991.

Before Becker, the youngest men’s champion was Wilfred Baddeley, who was 19 when he won the title in 1881 (the Englishman won a couple more titles, in 1892 and 1895).

Aged 17 years and 288 days, not only was he at the time the youngest man to ever win a Grand Slam (a record later beaten by Michael Chang at Roland-Garros, in 1989), but he was also the first unseeded man and the first German national to lift the trophy at the All England Club.

Despite his recent title at the Queen’s Club Championships, 17-year-old Boris Becker, ranked No 20 in the world, entered the Wimbledon draw as an unseeded player (there were only 16 seeds at the time).

Even though many observers expected him to be a decent outsider at the All England Club that year, not many expected him to reach the final four. In fact, the young German miraculously escaped a third-round loss against Joakim Nystrom, as the Swede served for the match twice in the fifth set, before Becker finally prevailed (3-6, 7-6, 6-1, 4-6, 9-7).

To make his way into the final, the teenager then had to get past dangerous opposition such as Tim Mayotte, Henri Leconte and Anders Jarryd.

To reach the final Kevin Curren, world No 9, had achieved the feat of defeating both Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe who was the world No 1 and defending champion that year. It was Cuurren’s second Grand Slam final of his career.

In a match dominated by big serves (Becker hit 21 aces against 19 by Curren), the youngster was the one who proved to have the best self-control. Fearless, the German gave repetitive provocative stares at his opponent, and even bumped into his shoulder at a changeover. Meanwhile, although he had more experience and had already competed in a Grand Slam final before, Curren couldn’t get his serve to be as effective as it had been against McEnroe and Connors in the previous rounds. Becker, whose spectacular diving volleys were much appreciated by the public, won in four sets (6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4).

”He never had to play McEnroe or Connors,” said Curren, according to The New York Times,”‘ but what Becker did was a sign of great maturity for someone that young. He’s got the qualities of a champion. At 17, I would have been totally intimidated by the whole atmosphere.”

After his spectacular triumph at Wimbledon, the German would confirm his status by claiming the title in Cincinnati, beating Mats Wilander in the final (6-4, 6-2). Finishing the year as world No 6, he would qualify for the Masters Cup where he would reach the final, outplayed by Ivan Lendl (6-2, 7-6, 6-3). Becker successfully defend his Wimbledon crown in 1986, defeating world No 1 Ivan Lendl in the final (6-4, 6-3, 7-5).

Beckers retirement marked the start of his financial woes. His earnings plunged while he continued living a lavish lifestyle, paying school fees for his children, and sending cash to his ex-wives.

Becker with girlfriend Lillian de Carvalho and son Noah outside Southwark Crown Court (Peter Cziborra/Reuters)

In 2017, he was declared bankrupt by the Bankruptcy and Companies Court in London over an unpaid loan of €4.6m (£3.5m) – from British private bank Arbuthnot Latham – that he had taken out in 2013 for a property in Mallorca, Spain.

He was also unable to fully repay £1.2m, with a 25 per cent interest rate, that he borrowed in 2014 from British businessman John Caudwell, who founded Phones 4u.

Becker told a jury at Southwark Crown Court that he was “shocked” and “embarrassed” when he was declared bankrupt. His lawyer said he was “too trusting and reliant” of his advisors.

On 8 April 2022, he was convicted of four charges – including removal of property, two counts of failing to disclose estate and concealing debt.

He was found guilty of transferring £356,000 to nine recipients, including the accounts of his ex-wife Barbara and estranged wife Sharlely ‘Lilly’ Becker.

Becker was also convicted of failing to declare a property in Germany, hiding a bank loan of almost £700,000, and his shares in a tech firm.

He was jailed for two years, six months for those crimes.

Becker said bad publicity had damaged his brand and that made it difficult for him to make enough money to pay his debts.

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